The Wake (And What Jeremiah Did Next)
Colm Herron is from Derry, Northern Ireland. His first writing career began at the age of seven and lasted for fourteen years. He then took a break “to live and see life” and went back to writing in his forties. He has since become a successful novelist with four books and many plaudits to his name. We have conducted an interview with him.
How would you describe today's climate as a fiction writer, and where do you hope you fit in?
Tropical. No question about it. The most popular genre is romance/erotica/soft porn and most of its readers are women. As Marilyn Monroe sang in the song Heat Wave:
The temperature’s rising/It isn’t surprising ...
So I suppose it could be argued that if writers had any sense they’d plan their plots to cash in on this. Women read far more books than men and many of these women like a nice bit of spice in the stuff they read. Trouble is, I don’t have any sense. I just don’t fit in here. Maybe I’m a masochist.
How long have you been writing and when was the first time that you discovered your writing talent?
I’ve been at it for most of my life. When I was seven I began writing stories about vampires. For the next few years, I made a small fortune selling them to classmates, enough to keep me comfortably in M&Ms and lollipops. And seeing as fantasy and horror are now well up on the list of bestsellers I’m beginning to think I should have stuck to vampires. Who knows, I might even have started my own Twilight series before Stephenie Meyer was ever heard of. But I didn’t. Like I said, I’m a masochist.
Which settings and themes do you like to write about?
A good few years after I kicked the vampire habit I started writing about freedom. Freedom from oppression and from all kinds of persecution. And freedom from insidious pressures that are meant to take away our individuality. In other words, freedom of thought, speech and lifestyle. If this sounds dull, it’s not. It’s what living is about, whether in faraway places or right where you and I happen to be now. So I decided to set all my novels in Ireland, specifically Derry, my home town, which I see as a microcosm of all that is right and wrong in the bigger world.
How do you craft the characters of your books?
I base them all on people I know and knew. In the case of my recently published novel The Wake (And What Jeremiah Did Next) the Jeremiah in question is actually me. So that wasn’t very hard to do. My living and loving happened as described in the book as did my closeness to death in the terrifying ambush coming up to the last pages. And all the other characters are real: the innocent are described as I remember them and the guilty are well disguised. I want to live long enough to complete the novel I’m writing now!
What awards and large festivals have you participated in, and what did you think about the experience(s)?
I suppose the most memorable festival I’ve been part of was the one at the Martello Tower of James Joyce fame. It was there that I did all-day readings in the company of Barry McGovern, Irish actor of note who starred in the movie Braveheart. I was quite nervous until it struck me that McGovern was reading from James Joyce and I was reading from my own books. That settled my nerves a bit. I was also invited to do readings at the world’s largest arts festival, The Edinburgh Fringe, and again I had to try and banish the butterflies from my belly because I was standing on the podium where many illustrious writers had stood before me. But once I got started I was OK. As for awards, I’ve received several from the Northern Ireland Arts Council and was thrilled to win last summer’s BookoftheDay.org’s award for the best dramatic novel - The Wake (And What Jeremiah Did Next). Also, my novel Further Adventures of James Joyce was the subject of discussion among Joyce scholars at Joyce’s Birthday Festival at Roma Tre University in February 2011.
What are the biggest challenges involved in making it successfully as an enterprising storyteller?
There is only one serious challenge and that is rejection. Don’t ever accept rejection. As the great Irish writer, Samuel Beckett once said: “Ever tried? Ever failed? No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”
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